For those Washington motorists who may wish to find fault when they crash head- on into expensive insurance premiums, there are seven D.C. Council members currently in the running for full blame. Five of them, led by Wilhelmina Rolark, have voted consistently against any genuine no-fault bill that would provide maximum, quick compensation and eliminate costly lawyer fees. Supporting Mrs. Rolark's lawyer-inspired amendments have been members Wilson, Ray, Moore and Jarvis.
Two other council members, Clarke and Crawford, supported an effective bill two weeks ago and then helped to ruin it on Tuesday. They joined the Rolark faction in lowering from $7,500 to $2,500 the amount of medical costs that accident victims must incur before there could be suits for "pain and suffering." That's an accident lawyer's delight--just run the bills up to $2,500 and it's off to the lawyers for suits, defenses, delays and settlements that run up the costs of insurance.
There were some other mischievous amendments tossed in by council members. One requires D.C. motorists to carry liability insurance to protect themselves when driving outside Washington in states without no-fault. Translation: jack up premiums, help the legal profession and further muddy the pending bill. Another reckless amendment would toss out any risk considerations used by insurance companies to determine premiums.
What next? The bill is scheduled for further council consideration on June 8. The trial lawyers' lobbyists have said they will seek to lower the already ridiculously low $2,500 "threshold." Motorists --and everybody else who some day might be an accident victim--should want just the opposite. Instead of a dollar amount that triggers the old lawsuit game, serious council members should support language listing specifically the conditions under which litigation would be permitted: namely, serious high-damage cases in which there is scarring, disfigurement, death or permanent inability to perform customary, necessary duties.
In any event, the no-fault approach should not be dropped, nor should the council simply give up and let the current liability system continue. Members should listen carefully to their constituents, not special interests, and enact a no-fault insurance measure that will provide residents the best, litigation-free protection a premium dollar can buy.